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China Stands by Decision to Postpone Summit with EU

  • Stephanie Ho

China is unapologetic for its last minute decision to postpone a major China-European Union summit originally scheduled for this week. Chinese officials say the reason is because current EU head, French president Nicolas Sarkozy, will meet with the Dalai Lama later this week in Poland. Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.

To hear Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao tell it, the reason China postponed the summit meeting with EU leaders is not complicated.

Liu placed all the blame squarely on France, saying it is because President Sarkozy is, in the spokesman's words, "bent on meeting the Dalai Lama."

China's discontent with the Dalai Lama is not new. He is the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, which is part of Chinese territory. Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of working for independence, while he says he seeks greater autonomy for his homeland within Chinese rule.

When asked what China could do to help smooth over tense relations with Europe, Liu said this should be a question for France.

Liu says China has done nothing to, "hurt the EU's interests." Instead, he said France and EU leaders should take China's concerns about sovereignty and territorial integrity more seriously.

Most of the nearly 50,000 Chinese netizens polled by a website affiliated with the official People's Daily newspaper supported the postponement of the China-EU summit. One netizen went so far as to urge a boycott of French goods.

This echoes a similar call earlier this year, when Chinese citizens were angered by protesters who disrupted the Olympic torch relay overseas. France was targeted because the demonstrations were particularly chaotic in Paris.

Despite China's current anger directed at France, President Sarkozy is not the only European leader to have met with the Dalai Lama.

Others who have met with the Tibetan leader this year include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek. The Czech Republic takes over the EU's rotating presidency in January.